Is South Africa helping Kenya censor LGBTQ expression?


Following an agreement with South Africa, Kenya’s censors are embarking on a “major crackdown” on online platforms that “promote activities” such as homosexuality.

Capital News reports that Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), said that the board would work with the Cybercrime Police Unit, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, and service providers, including Google, to promote “Internet safety” and “child online safety”.

Mutua said the board, which is openly homophobic, had acquired more efficient media monitoring technology and was recruiting “more film monitoring and enforcement officers as well as increasing capacity for content examination and classification”.

While the KFB aims, quite appropriately, to target child pornography and the promotion of illicit drugs online, Mutua confirmed in a press conference that the board includes homosexuality as part of the online “menace” facing Kenyan Society.

Mutua also took the opportunity to again perpetuate the false belief that homosexuality is some kind of radical movement being imposed on Africa, especially amongst the continent’s youth.

“The bulk of these platforms are being run by foreigners bent on spreading vices such as homosexuality and promoting radicalisation among the youth,” he said. “Once investigations are completed, all offenders will be arrested and prosecuted in line with the laws of Kenya.”

The KFCB has a history of banning or attempting to ban LGBTQ themed material, including films and music videos. Mutua previously warned that, “Kenya must not allow people to become the Sodom and Gomorrah through psychological drive from such content”.

Disturbingly, it is very likely that South Africa has assisted the KFPB in being able to improve its capacity and skills with regard to online censorship, despite the organisation’s blatantly homophobic mandate.

A scene from the Same Love music video, which was banned by Kenyan censors

In March 2016, we reported that South Africa’s Film & Publications Board (FBP) had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the KFCB that would see the two parties collaborating in restricting online material.

The FPB has repeatedly refused to reveal the content of the agreement and shockingly also refused to condemn the KFCB’s homophobic attacks on freedom of expression and its human rights violations against the LGBTQ community.

The FPB has further rejected a PAIA freedom of information request from the Right2Know Campaign about the agreement. Shrugging off calls for transparency and its constitutional obligations, the FPB wrote that “the terms of the MOU prohibit the parties from divulging confidential information to third parties without prior consent of the other party”.

Homosexuality is outlawed in Kenya with penalties including five to 14 years in prison. In March, a gay Kenyan couple were seriously injured after they were attacked by a mob while in the privacy of their hotel room. They were detained by police while their assailants were allowed to go free.

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